But, for some reason, the next day I’m still tense. Edgy.

It’s like I’d asked the waitress for a beer, and she brought me a soda. Like I ate a sandwich when what I really wanted was a nice juicy steak. I’m full. But far from satisfied.

At the time, I don’t know why I feel like that. But I bet you do, don’t you?

To do my job properly, I need books—lots of them. The laws, codes, and regulations involved in what I do are detailed and change frequently.

Luckily for me, my firm has the most extensive collection of pertinent reference materials in the city. Well, except for maybe the city library. But have you seen that place? It’s like a frigging castle. It takes forever to find out where something should be, and when you do, it’s most likely checked out already. My firm’s private library is much more convenient.

So, Tuesday afternoon, I’m at my desk working with one of the aforementioned references when who should grace me with her presence?

Yep—the lovely Kate Brooks. She is looking particularly delicious today.

Her voice is hesitant. “Hey, Drew? I was looking for this year’s Technical Analysis of the Financial Markets, and it’s not in the library. Do you have it by any chance?” She bites her lip in the adorable way she does whenever she’s nervous.

The book in question is actually sitting right on my desk. And I’m just about done with it. I could be the better man—the bigger person—and give it to her.

But you don’t really think I’m going to do that, do you? Have you learned nothing from our past conversations?

“Yeah, I do have it, actually,” I tell her.

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She smiles. “Oh, great. When do you think you’ll be finished with it?”

I look to the ceiling, seemingly deep in thought. “Not sure. Four…maybe five…weeks.”

“Weeks?” she asks, gazing down at me.

Can you tell she’s annoyed?

I know what you’re thinking. If I want to eventually—after the whole Anderson thing is over—do the horizontal tango with Kate, why don’t I try being just a little bit nicer to her? And you’re right. That does make sense.

But the Anderson thing isn’t over yet. And as I’ve said before—this, my friends, is war. I’m talking DEFCON-one, gloves-off, I’ll-knock-you-down-even-if-you-are-a-girl war.

You wouldn’t give a bullet to a sniper who’s got his gun aimed at your forehead, would you?

Plus, Kate is too damn hot when she’s angry for me to pass up a chance to see her fired up again, just for my own twisted pleasure. I look her up and down appreciatively as I speak, before giving her my patented boyish smile that almost all women are helpless against.

Kate, of course, not being one of those women. Figures.

“Well, I suppose if you ask nicely…and throw in a shoulder rub while you’re at it…I might be persuaded to give it to you now.”

The truth is, I would never demand anything that resembled a sexual favor in exchange for something work-related. I’m a lot of things. A bottom-feeding scumbag like that isn’t one of them.

But that last comment could definitely be construed as flat-out, old-school sexual harassment. And if Kate ever told my father I’d said that to her? Jesus H. Christ, he would fire me faster than you could say, “Up shit creek without a paddle.” Then he’d most likely knock me on my ass for good measure.

I’m walking one high f**king tightrope here. Yet, though the possibility exists, I’m 99.9 percent sure that Kate won’t rat me out. She’s too much like me. She wants to win. She wants to beat me. And she wants to do it all on her own.

She puts her hands on her h*ps and opens her mouth to rip into me—most likely to describe just where I can shove my book, I’d guess. I lean back with an amused smile, eagerly anticipating the explosion…that never comes.

She tilts her head to the side, closes her mouth, and says, “You know what? Never mind.”

And with that, she walks out the door.

Huh.

Kind of anticlimactic, don’t you think? I thought so too.

Wait for it.

A few hours later, I’m down in the library looking for an enormous reference titled Commercial and Investment Banking and the International Credit and Capital Markets. All of Harry Potter would fit into one chapter of this sucker. I scan the stacks for where it should be—but it’s not there.

Somebody else must have it.

I turn my attention to a much smaller, but just as important, volume called Investment Management Regulation, Seventh Edition. Only to find that it, too, is missing.

What the hell?

I don’t believe in coincidences. I take the elevator back to the fortieth floor and march purposefully through Kate’s open door.

I don’t see her right away.

That’s because stacked on and around her desk, in neat skyscraper-high columns, are books. About three dozen of them.

For a moment, I freeze, my mouth open and my eyes wide with shock. Then, inanely, I wonder how the hell she got them all up here. Kate weighs a buck-ten at best. There’s got to be several hundred pounds of pages in this room.

It’s then that her shiny dark head emerges over the horizon. And, once again, she smiles. Like a cat with a mouthful of bird.

I hate cats. They’re kind of evil-looking, don’t you think? Like they’re just waiting for you to fall asleep so they can smother you with their fur or piss in your ear.

“Hi, Drew. Did you need something?” she asks me with phony benevolence.

Her fingers tap rhythmically on two gigantic hardcovers. “You know…help? Advice? Directions to the public library?”

I swallow my response. And frown at her. “No. I’m good.”

“Oh. Okay, great. Bye-bye, now.” And with that, she disappears back down behind the literary mountain.

Brooks—two.

Evans—zip.

After that, things get nasty.

I’m ashamed to say that both Kate and I sink to new lows in professional sabotage. It never actually wanders over to the realm of the illegal. But it’s definitely close.

One day I come in to find all the cables missing from my computer. It doesn’t do any lasting damage, but I have to wait an hour-and-a-half for the IT guy to show up and reconnect it.

The next day, Kate comes in to discover that “someone” has switched all the labels on her disks and files. Nothing was erased, mind you. But she pretty much has to look through every single one if she wants to find the documents she needs.

A few days after that at a staff meeting, I “accidentally” spill a glass of water on some information Kate has compiled for my father. Something that probably took her five or so hours to put together.

“Oops. Sorry,” I say, letting the smirk on my face tell her how very unsorry I am.

“It’s fine, Mr. Evans,” she assures my father as she wipes up the mess. “I have another copy in my office.”

How very Boy-Scoutish of her, don’t you think?

Later—about halfway through the same meeting—do you know what she does?

She f**king kicks me! In the shin, under the table.

“Hmph,” I groan, and my hands fist reflexively.

“You all right, Drew?” my father asks.

I can only nod and squeak, “Something in my throat.” I cough dramatically.

See, I’m not about to go crying to Daddy either. But sweet Christ it hurt. You ever been kicked in the shin by a four-inch pointy shoe? For a man, there is only one area that’s more painful to be kicked.

And that is a place that dare not speak its name.

After the throbbing in my leg dies down a bit, I hide my hand behind some upturned papers while my father’s speaking. Then I flip Kate the finger. Immature, I know, but apparently we’re now both functioning at the preschool level, so I’m guessing it’s okay.

Kate sneers at me. Then she mouths, You wish.

Well—she’s got me there, now doesn’t she?

We’re in the home stretch. A month of mortal combat has passed, and tomorrow is my father’s deadline. It’s around eleven o’clock, and Kate and I are the only ones left in the building.

I’ve had this fantasy a hundred times. Though, I have to say, it’s never included us in our respective offices, glaring at each other across the hallway—accompanied by the occasional obscene hand gesture.

I glance over and see her reviewing her charts. What is she thinking? Is this the Stone Age? Who the hell uses poster board anymore? Anderson is definitely mine.

I’m just putting the finishing touches on my own impressive PowerPoint presentation when Matthew walks into my office. He’s heading to the bars. Never mind that it’s a Wednesday night; that’s just Matthew. A few short weeks ago, that was me too.

He looks at me for the longest time, saying nothing. Then he sits on the edge of my desk and says, “Dude, just f**king do it already.”

“What are you talking about?” I ask, my fingers never pausing over the keyboard.

“Have you looked at yourself lately? You need to just walk over there and get it done.”

And now he’s annoying me. “Matthew, what the hell are you trying to say?”

But all he comes back with is, “You ever see War of the Roses? Is that how you want to end up?”

“I have work to do. I don’t have time for this right now.”

He throws his hands up. “Fine. I tried. When we find you two in the lobby under the fallen chandelier, I’ll tell your mother I frigging tried.”

I stop typing. “What the f**k do you mean?”

“I mean you and Kate. It’s obvious you have a thing for her.”

I glance over at her office when he says her name. She doesn’t look up. “Yeah, I do have ‘a thing’ for her. An extreme dislike of her. We can’t stand each other. She’s a pill. I wouldn’t f**k her with a ten-foot dildo.”

Okay, that’s not true. I’d so f**k her. But I wouldn’t like it.

Yeah—you’re right. That’s not true either.

Matthew sits in the chair across from my desk. I can feel him staring at me again. Then he sighs. And says, like it’s supposed to be some awe-inspiring revelation, “Sally Jansen.”

I look at him blankly.

Who?

“Sally Jansen,” he says again, then clarifies, “Third grade.”

The picture of a small girl with light brown pigtails and thick glasses comes to mind.

I nod. “What about her?”

“She was the first girl I ever loved.”

Wait. What?

“Didn’t you used to call her Smelly Sally?”

“Yes.” He nods solemnly. “Yes, I did. And I loved her.”

Still confused.

“Didn’t you get, like, the entire third grade to call her Smelly Sally?”

He nods again and, trying to sound sage, says, “Love makes you do some stupid shit.”

I guess so, because…

“Didn’t she have to leave early twice a week to go to a therapist because you ragged on her so much?”

He ponders this a moment. “Yes, that’s true. You know, there’s a fine line between love and hate, Drew.”